“So it is true?” Russell asked with wonder. “Fairy blood really allows a vampire safety in the sun for a time!”
“Only for a short while,” Bill admitted. “Even after all the blood that I had taken from her, I was afforded only five minutes or so.”
“Five minutes in the sun,” Russell said wistfully. “Remarkable!”
“Five minutes that could have killed Sookie,” Bill returned sorrowfully.
“What about when you rose tonight?” Russell asked.
“By the time I had dug a resting place of suitable depth, the sun was already burning into me, so I did not rise right at nightfall. When I did awaken, it was already after 1:00 a.m., and I had to find food before I went to Sookie.”
Russell’s smirk was back because of the renewed guilt he felt from the vampire in front of him. “And did you find a suitable,” he paused, “meal?”
Bill nodded. “Yes. I found a husband and wife camping a few miles from my resting place. I . . . .” He stopped as more tears fell from his eyes.
“You had to feed in order to replenish your strength and to heal,” Russell said comfortingly. “Any vampire would have done the same. Tell me, Bill. Did you also partake of the flesh while you fed?” he asked sadistically.
Bill nodded. “I was so starved. I just—I could not help myself,” he muttered contritely, as if he were confessing to a priest.
“Of course you couldn’t. You had to see to your urges. It wouldn’t have done anyone any good for you to find Miss Stackhouse while you were still starved and injured,” Russell said reassuringly. “You may have hurt her again, and I know that would have killed you,” he added, somehow managing to keep his sarcasm at bay.
Bill sniffled and looked up at Russell almost hopefully. “Yes—that’s right. And I had to get to Sookie,” he said desperately. “She was injured and needed me. I could feel that she was extremely weak through our blood tie.”
“Did you take care of the corpses you left behind?” Russell asked in a soft, reassuring tone. “It wouldn’t do to have them found.”
Bill shook his head. “No,” he whispered. “I could think only of getting to Sookie, and she was still quite far from me. I stole the couple’s car and drove to her location. And then I drove it here.”
“I see,” Russell said. “Where did you leave the couple, William?”
“About five miles north of Monroe. Off of Highway 2,” the young vampire said, sounding defeated.
Russell signaled for one of his Weres.
“Your majesty?” the Were asked respectfully.
“There has been a camping accident off of Highway 2, five miles north of Monroe.” He looked at Bill. “Did you leave them at a campsite?”
The younger vampire shook his head. “No. Not at an official one. There’s a road called Rock Cliff Road. It ends at a little stream. That is where they are.”
“Take care of it,” Russell ordered his Were. And see to the car Compton drove here.”
The Were nodded and quickly went to fulfill his king’s orders.
“What happened after you fed?” Russell picked up his questioning. “Did you find your fairy?”
Bill nodded. “Yes. In a hospital in Rustin. But Northman was already there,” he said bitterly. “He took Sookie away; that’s why I must find her.”
Russell’s first inclination after hearing Bill’s words was to celebrate. Northman must have gained some kind of information about Miss Stackhouse’s location even as he was flying to Mississippi! Thus, the fact that Talbot had not yet called him to let him know that Eric had arrived at the Jackson mansion was immediately explained.
“Eric forced Sookie to take his blood before I could get to her,” Bill said bitterly as more tears fell from his eyes. “I tried to stop him—to fight him—but he had Sookie, and I feared that he would harm her. I would have killed him otherwise,” Bill added coldly.
Russell held in his smile. There was no way that Bill would have stood a chance if the Viking had truly wanted his final death.
“So that is why your blood tie with Miss Stackhouse is now ‘confused,'” Russell observed. “Indeed, if Miss Stackhouse were given a substantial amount of the Norseman’s blood, that would affect your tie with her, especially if Eric actively compelled his blood to hinder yours.”
“Is that possible?” Bill asked with surprise.
“Ah—young ones,” Russell said, patronizingly. “You have no idea what the blood can accomplish.” The king smiled almost kindly. “Do not fear, young William. I can teach you many things, and if you stay alive, you will become able to do them all—in time.”
“So—uh—I cannot track Sookie because Eric’s blood is blocking me from doing so?” Bill asked. “I thought for a while that they were headed east, but then they seemed to disappear, so I came here. I can still feel that she is alive, but I cannot tell where she is.”
“Northman’s blood would make tracking Miss Stackhouse difficult for you,” Russell mused, “especially if he knew how to use it. However, do not fear, from what you have said, it is clear that Eric is on his way to Mississippi with your fairy. And he knows better than to let harm come to her. If you cooperate, I see no reason why you cannot have a joyful reunion with Miss Stackhouse now that Lorena is no more.”
The king smiled to himself. Indeed, things were working out very well. Northman had secured the telepath, and because she’d taken his blood, the Viking could now track her, so if she escaped again, she would be much easier to secure, given Eric’s age and strength. Of course, Russell had planned to force Sookie to take some of his own blood so that he could keep track her himself, but having Northman be able to trail the young telepath was an even more satisfactory arrangement.
This way, Russell could avoid all the nasty side effects of allowing a human to have his blood. Being forced to feel a human’s ever-shifting emotions was a pain in the ass. Yes—the Viking and William, whom Russell intended to mold into a trusted minion, would be more than adequate trackers if the telepath escaped again. And if Bill tried to facilitate such an escape, then Russell would let the Viking kill him. After all, the animosity between the two of them was apparent.
No. Russell didn’t mind not having to give Sookie Stackhouse his blood at all!
What Russell did mind was the fact that Eric had not contacted him to let him know that he had found Miss Stackhouse. However, within milliseconds, the king had run through several scenarios to explain that oversight. Perhaps, Eric was flying Miss Stackhouse to the Mississippi mansion or another safe location, and—because of the short time before dawn—had not had the time to call. Perhaps, Miss Stackhouse’s condition had worsened, and Eric had needed to seek medical assistance or even turn the woman. Perhaps, the Viking’s cell phone had been lost during his scuffle with Compton.
Even as Russell’s supple mind ran through all of these plausible explanations, however, that nagging suspicion he had about Northman resurfaced. He replayed Northman’s actions regarding the telepath in his head. There was Eric’s protective posturing when Lorena threatened the girl. There was the forced smile on the Viking’s lips when Russell expelled him from the room so that he could talk to Sookie about the file. But those things could be explained. Miss Stackhouse had been an asset to Northman and lived in Area 5, after all. So Eric wouldn’t have wanted Lorena to harm her. Plus, Russell had interrupted a heated argument between the telepath and the Viking. Her eyes had been wet with tears that Eric must have caused.
Given those facts, Russell had not been suspicious of the interactions he’d witnessed between Eric and Sookie—but now, he wondered.
“So Eric took Sookie on your behalf?” Bill asked, interrupting Russell’s thoughts.
Russell hesitated a moment but then nodded. “Yes.”
“So he used his blood in Sookie to track her down at the hospital?” Bill asked. “I wouldn’t have thought that he had enough blood in her to do that. I barely found her. But he is quite old,” the Civil War veteran mused.
The elder vampire’s blood grew even colder than usual. “What do you mean? Eric had blood inside of Miss Stackhouse before tonight?” Russell’s anger bubbled to the surface.
Bill once more shrank back in fear. “Yes,” he whispered.
“Explain!” Russell ordered. “Now!”
Afraid to be ripped limb from limb, Bill talked quickly. “It was when we were in Dallas several weeks ago. A bomb went off in Godric’s home, and Eric tricked Sookie into sucking some silver from his body. By the time I was able to get to her, she had already swallowed a few drops of his blood.”
Russell stood up abruptly and crushed the chair he had been sitting on with his bare hands as if he were crumpling a piece of paper.
When the king spoke again, his voice was disturbingly low in volume and tone. “So you are telling me that Northman has had his blood in Miss Stackhouse the whole time I have known him?”
Russell thought for a moment. It was possible that Eric wasn’t sure he could track the fairy if she had so little of his blood. Perhaps, during his flight, the Viking’s blood had “found” her because of proximity. After all, his path would have caused him to fly almost directly over Ruston. But why wouldn’t Eric have told his king—a king to whom he outwardly showed so much loyalty—about the telepath having his blood.
Russell scanned all of his doubts and all of his thoughts related to Eric Northman, and then suddenly the spark of suspicion became a brightly burning fire. It was the fire of a hearth—a Viking hearth.
As if in a time machine, Russell closed his eyes and was transported into a long-ago memory. He’d seen the young Viking man, who was probably fewer than twenty winters old, cradling his dead mother. The young man was dirty from his fight and confused by the appearance of a naked man where there had once been a wolf. Russell could smell the young man’s tears and his fear. Both scents were alluring.
Yet Russell enjoyed the thought of the young man’s anguish much more than he relished the thought of killing him that night. It had always been Russell’s practice to leave behind a single survivor in a family. He’d done it hundreds of times; he relished in the survivor’s anguish and in the thought of his or her continued suffering at his hands. Sometimes he took the attractive survivors with him—to feed off of both their distress and their blood for days on end, but more often than not, he would leave them behind, especially when their blood was not particularly noteworthy.
Despite his fear, the young Viking’s blood had smelled ordinary, so Russell had given him a warning that he should not follow. He figured that he’d test the young man’s metal. If the Viking chased after Russell into the night, he would prove his foolishness, as well as demonstrate a thoughtless kind of bravery. If that had happened, Russell would have drained the young man and put him out of his misery—after fucking him senseless, of course. But the Viking did not follow. He proved his instinct for self-preservation, though Russell intuited that the young man would see his choice not to pursue his enemy as an act of cowardice. The vampire had relished in that idea; he had imagined the young Viking punishing himself for his inaction for much longer than Russell could have tortured him.
Russell walked away from Bill and over to Fangtasia’s bar. He ran his fingers over the smooth surface and admired its quality.
“Cherry wood,” he observed. “Beautiful.”
In a movement that Bill barely perceived, the ancient vampire raised his fists and brought them down with force, easily breaking the solid wood bar in two.
“That felt good,” Russell mused to himself before bringing his fists down again, once more chopping into the wood. He closed his eyes tightly and let the memory of the young Viking—barely a man—fill his mind fully. The light from the fire in the lodge had been dim, but Russell had seen the young man’s eyes clearly. They had been a blue storm of mixed emotions, with the chief of them being fear—the only emotion that Russell had failed to see in the eyes of the sheriff of Area 5.
The king smiled. Clearly, Eric Northman had learned to master that which had stifled him before. But Russell planned to see that fear again―many, many times―before he allowed the Viking to meet his final death. By then there would be nothing left but the fear in those cerulean eyes.
Russell turned around slowly and saw that the young vampire before him already had a healthy dose of fear. It was as it should be. Russell smiled at the youngling.
“You hate Eric Northman?” Russell asked.
“Yes,” Bill replied somewhat cautiously.
“And he stole away your fairy?”
“Yes,” Bill repeated, but this time with spite in his tone.
“Do you believe that he will keep her?”
“He has a fascination with her,” Bill responded stiffly. “He will try to manipulate her into staying with him. He will,” Bill paused, “take advantage of her innocence.”
Russell nodded. “Then—I will make a bargain with you, young William.”
Bill looked at Russell with curiosity.
“I am always in need of able vampires, and you have caught my eye,” the king said, as he sized up Bill once more. “If I promise to allow you and Miss Stackhouse to continue your association under my roof, will you help me to get her back by using your blood tie with her?”
“You won’t harm her?” Bill asked hesitantly.
“She will be an asset to me—as will you.”
“But her blood?” Bill asked.
“I will not deny that I intend to use Miss Stackhouse’s blood to allow me to see the sunrise on occasion, but I would do her no real harm,” Russell promised. “Other than that, her blood will be her own. And,” he paused, “yours, of course.”
“What about Sophie-Anne?” Bill asked.
“My wife will not be a problem,” the king stated. “Louisiana is mine now.”
“You and Sophie-Anne married?”
“Yes. The magister himself performed the ceremony. Your queen is merely a figurehead now. And—rest assured—I will not allow her to harm your fairy.”
Bill replied slowly. “So Sookie and I can live in your mansion—as a couple?”
The king nodded. “Yes. And I will take you both to Vermont myself. You may marry and live in my mansion—under my protection, of course. In fact, I promise not even to take Miss Stackhouse’s blood from her directly. I will have only a pint or so drawn from her each week; then I will store it until I wish to gorge in the light of the sun.” He smiled. “So you see? No harm need come to your Sookie at all. And—all I ask for in return—is that she use her telepathy to aid me. And—even with that—I will offer her an impressive salary and a reasonable schedule.”
Bill considered Russell’s words for a few moments. In turn, the king studied the younger vampire carefully and celebrated internally the moment he saw Bill’s eyes shift slightly. In that fraction of a second, the king knew that he had a new minion.
“If you allow Sookie the illusion of freedom,” Bill began, “if you let her visit her friends and family in Bon Temps on occasion and let her receive visits from them, and if you give her a written contract of some kind, I believe that she would accept her station by your side without struggle, your majesty. Sophie-Anne was unwilling to do these things. She wanted to have Sookie for her blood slave, as well as for her telepathy.”
Russell scoffed. “Sophie-Anne is an infant—a spoiled little brat without true vision. I am neither of these things. Your Sookie is a rare find—and should be treated as a treasured asset! And—you too—have great potential, William. You will find that I greatly reward those in my service, and that is exactly what I intend to do for you and your mate, William.”
“My mate?” Bill asked longingly.
“Yes,” the king responded, “for that is how I view Miss Stackhouse. She will be yours. She is yours. You will both work for me at my residence, and you will both be treated extremely well. And—to prove my goodwill—I will follow your invaluable advice. Your fairy—your wife—will have her illusion of freedom and independence. In fact, I shall even have a separate bungalow constructed for you and her on my property. She will be allowed guests, she will be free to visit her hometown for vacations, and you and she may both come and go from the property as you please when you are not working. Would that be acceptable?”
Bill bit his bottom lip, even as his eyes lit up at the prospect of being in service to a worthy monarch. “Yes,” he said, looking at Russell with a mixture of admiration and determination. “I will do all that I can to find Sookie for you.”
“For us, dear William,” Russell smiled. “I hope that you will consider this an arrangement that will benefit you as well,” the king added, seductively. “I have much that I could teach a vampire of your inherent quality.”
Russell motioned for one of his Weres to remove the younger vampire’s silver chains.
“You honor me with your words and confidence in me,” Bill said with a little bow once the chains were off of him.
“One must leave a legacy, young William.” Russell chuckled. “Of course, I intend to continue living in the midst of mine.”
“Of course,” Bill responded with a smile.
“Shall we?” Russell asked, gesturing toward the basement. The sun would rise in only a few minutes, and Russell could tell that Bill was starting to feel the pull, especially now that the pain of the silver was gone. “You should have a couple of TrueBloods before you rest, and Dane here will get you a donor for first thing tonight.” Russell gave his new Were alpha a nod.
“Thank you, your majesty,” Bill said deferentially as Russell went on the other side of the destroyed bar to get two TrueBloods.
“I’m afraid the microwave was ruined in my moment of rage,” Russell said with a sheepish grin.
“That is fine,” Bill said, as Russell handed him the first of the TrueBloods. Once in the basement, Russell led them to a door, behind which was a bedroom. A large bed with opulent black linens dominated the room. A gigantic shower with a glass door and many different nozzles was the only other item in the space.
“I’m afraid these are the only accommodations I can offer. You do not mind sharing a resting place with your king—do you, William?” Russell asked.
“Not at all, your majesty,” Bill answered as he watched the elder vampire take off his jacket and his shoes and make himself comfortable on the side of the bed closest to the wall.
“Do latch the door—will you?” Russell asked a nervous-looking Bill.
The younger vampire quickly obeyed. “Your majesty?” Bill said after drinking down the rest of the first bottle of blood and beginning the second one.
“Yes?” Russell asked in a tone that was full of patience and ease.
“I know how to—uh—I know how to weave dreams,” Bill stammered a little.
“But you are so young,” Russell responded with surprise as he sat up straighter on the bed.
“That skill and my powerful glamouring ability are my vampire gifts,” Bill responded, his tone conveying sadness.
“And you have developed your dream-weaving gift?” Russell asked with curiosity.
Bill nodded, even as shame oozed off of him in waves. “Lorena enjoyed commanding me to give humans my blood. Then she would force me to hone my skill.” He paused and wiped away a fresh tear from the tracks of dried blood already on his face. “Many humans were driven to their deaths because of the things my maker made me do to them with woven dreams.”
Russell hid his smile. Lorena always did relish her little games. The king had tinkered with dream-weaving around a thousand years before, but—after perfecting the skill—it became boring for him, just like most everything else did in a three-thousand-year life.
“Tell me, young William,” Russell asked, “have you ever woven a dream for Miss Stackhouse?”
Bill nodded and looked down as another tear slipped from his eye. “Sookie’s grandmother had been murdered, and she was in great pain. The day of Adele Stackhouse’s funeral, I sent a dream.” The younger vampire shook his head regretfully. “I did it on impulse,” he added quickly. “I didn’t even know if Sookie would sleep that day, but she must have.”
“What did your dream compel her to do?” Russell asked, his tone almost snake-like.
He sighed. “I wanted to take her mind off of her grief, so I sent her lust and the desire to come to me after nightfall. When I awoke, I regretted sending the dream, but Sookie was already running to me by then. She had prepared herself for me,” he added, closing his eyes and unconsciously licking his lips. “She was dressed in a white nightgown—like a bride. My bride. And she was a virgin then. I tried to resist the urge to take her, but I could not.”
Russell once more held in his grin and affected a concerned expression. “Surely that was a gift to Miss Stackhouse. As you said, you were only trying to alleviate her grief.”
“Yes. But she gave me her virginity that night,” Bill said quietly.
Russell had to use Herculean effort to maintain a straight face. “A gift for a gift,” he said comfortingly.
“You truly believe that?” Bill asked hopefully.
“Of course,” Russell replied sincerely. “You were comforting her the best way you knew how.”
“Yes,” Bill said, his relief clear. “And I did not weave any other dreams for her. I sent her others in the usual ways, but that was the only time I used my dream-weaving, and it was for her.”
“And for the best,” Russell added. He was more than willing to make Bill feel better if it led to the conclusion for which he was now hoping. “You were just trying to protect your mate from pain—just as you are trying to protect her from Northman now.”
“Yes,” Bill said with desperation in his eyes. “I would do anything to get Sookie away from Eric and to bring her to safety.”
“I know you would, William. So would I,” Russell assured. “But dream-weaving can be a dangerous business,” the king said hesitantly, baiting the hook for Bill to bite.
“I know,” the younger vampire said, looking quite tortured.
“But,” Russell paused dramatically, “the Norseman is even more dangerous to your mate.” The king sighed and shook his head as if he were as conflicted as Bill.
“Sookie has to be gotten away from Eric. He is manipulating her,” Bill replied with sudden fervor.
“You could help her,” Russell observed in a rational tone. “You helped her before when you sent her a dream. And this time, she needs your help even more, for she is in grave danger.”
“Fear would be the easiest way to draw her to you,” Russell mused thoughtfully. “After all, she loves you. She is devoted to you. If she thought you were in mortal danger, she would come to you.”
“Do you think so? What if Eric has already corrupted her feelings?”
Russell shook his head sadly. “He may have, but if she sleeps during the day, Northman will be powerless to stop her from escaping. Her dream will compel her to do what it best for her. And, after she is with us, we can show her Eric’s duplicity, and she can once more take her rightful place by your side.”
Bill nodded as resolution settled over his features. He quickly finished his blood, took off his shoes, and moved to the bed.
Russell spoke to Bill with concern in his tone. “You are still weak from the silver, young William. You should take a bit of my blood. It will help you to send a stronger dream.”
“You would give me your blood?” Bill asked with awe in his voice.
“I care for you William. And, though it may not have looked like it, I care for your Miss Stackhouse too.” He smiled. “Allow me to give you this gift to make up for the fact that I had to silver you earlier.” Russell’s voice grew more and more seductive as he continued, “Do it for Sookie—for your future wife.”
Bill nodded. “I will. Thank you.”
Russell smiled and brought his wrist to his mouth. He looked forward to having his blood inside of Bill. It would help him to keep tabs on his young pupil for a few days—though, unfortunately, even his ancient blood could not be used to control another vampire.
Luckily, Compton was relatively easy to manipulate even without blood. Russell had already found out that he could play on the younger vampire’s feelings of guilt in order to get him to do almost anything. All Russell had to do was act as Bill’s confessor and then offer the youngling absolution.
Energized and aroused by the strength of Russell’s blood, Bill’s eyes brightened. The king leaned down and placed a soft, chaste kiss onto Bill’s lips.
“Send your dream, young William. And all will be well by tonight,” Russell said reassuringly—coaxingly.
Immediately, Bill complied. He closed his eyes, and Russell could feel the magic emanating from the younger vampire’s body. The king was impressed by the amount of effort and force Bill put into the dream, but—then again, Russell thought to himself—Compton had been trained by Lorena. Moreover, the younger vampire was obviously obsessed with the Stackhouse girl. Otherwise, why would he send someone he supposedly loved a woven dream? Such dreams were wrought with perils that the vampire could not foresee, and many a human had been driven insane or had died because of them.
The king grinned as Bill’s eyes remained closed. If Sookie slept, the dream would take hold of her. Hyped up on fear that would only expand upon her waking, Sookie could literally kill herself trying to get to Bill. Indeed, dream-weaving was a risky business, but Russell was willing to risk the telepath’s life so that Northman couldn’t use her to his advantage.
The dream sent, an exhausted Bill immediately fell back onto the bed, dead for the day. Russell had to hand it to William Compton. He’d certainly held nothing back as he’d sent the dream.
Russell quickly called his Alpha Were, Dane, to let him know that the telepath might come searching for Compton. He also told Dane to inform the Weres watching Compton’s home that the telepath might head there. In order to limit the potential that Sookie would hurt herself because of the dream, he gave instructions that his people should restrain and heavily tranquilize Sookie if she showed up. She would likely do anything to get to Bill if she was in the state of panic that Russell hoped the dream would instill inside of her. Hell, if she found out Bill’s precise location, she would literally try to claw through the steel door behind which he and Bill were now housed—unless she were physically restrained from doing so.
The trap set, Russell studied William Compton. The young vampire had already proven useful—and he held hidden talents that would benefit the king. Indeed, he had not been lying when he said that he found the youngling promising. Missing Talbot, Russell curled young William into his body right before letting the sun pull him to death.
A/N: If you want to learn more about vampire blood, dreams, etc., I have added to “Vampire Blood: 101.” It’s taught by Professor Northman, who has a very—um—hands-on approach to teaching (at least in my vivid imagination). 😉 Check it out if you are interested by clicking on the button for the class below. 😉
As always, a special thanks to Sephrenia for all the banners (esp. Professor Northman).